Friday, October 31, 2008

Huge overflow crowd at Highland Indiana rally

This multi-racial crowd has overwhelmed the park on a beautiful Halloween night. Costumes aren't allowed so kids are wearing their parents jackets over princess outfits. The crowd tastes victory in Indiana while we wait for the next President to appear. It feels like a new majority. Friendly, crowded but firm in the absolute rejection of Republican rule. The few pro-lifers outside seem like renmants of a dying regime. It's a new day.

Who should I vote for? If you make less than 100 grand, Obama. More than 250 grand, McCain.

If you are going to base your vote exclusively on which candidate will cut *your* taxes, then the choice is clear, depending on how much money you make.

Start by remembering how much money you made in 2007 and how much you realistically expect to make next year. Got it?

If you will make less than $100,000, then Obama will cut your taxes more than McCain will. No question. If you make $40,000 or $60,000 or $80,000 a year, and you are going to vote based on which candidate will cut your taxes the most, then Obama is your candidate.

If you will make between $100,000 and $250,000, then it's about the same. Both candidates will cut your taxes about the same amount. There are slight differences based on your personal circumstances, but it basically comes out in the wash. You have to use a different reason to choose who to vote for then which candidate will cut your federal taxes more if you make between $100,000 and $250,000.

And if you will make more than $250,000, McCain will cut your taxes while Obama will raise your taxes. If you make more than a quarter million dollars a year and you want a candidate who will cut your taxes, McCain is your candidate.

This is why people say that the Republican Party is for the rich while the Democratic Party is for working people, because Republican candidates almost always want to cut taxes for the rich while Democratic candidates want to improve the lives of regular people (the people who make between $20,000 and $100,000 a year).

These conclusions come from an independent analysis by the Tax Policy Center and the big accounting firm Deloitte, and reported in the New York Times.

Now there are lots of other (perhaps better) reasons to vote for a candidate and a political party than which one will cut *your* personal taxes more, but now you know which candidate will cut your taxes based on your annual income. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

McCain calls Obama tax plan socialism for "spreading the wealth" ...

John McCain calls Barack Obama's tax plan "socialism" as it w0uld reinstate the tax rates we had from 1993-2001 where any income above $250,000 paid an additional 3.6% more than they do now. 

That's the difference between our economy today and "socialism" according to the Republican Party -- if someone makes more than $250,000, that person would pay a little less on the money earned up to $250,000, but the tax rate applied to any income above a quarter million dollars would be 3.6% higher. That, my friends, is socialism.


I don't know about you, but I wouldn't call the Obama-style tax rates we had in the 1990s under Bill Clinton "socialism" -- I'd call that "prosperity." If we lived under "socialism" in the 1990s and we've been living under something else since Bush got elected, then guess what -- I'll take the 1990s type of socialism any day of the week. Wouldn't you?

Please, ask a voter who is leaning towards McCain: would you rather have the economy of the 90s with the Democratic tax rates or the economy since 2001 with the Republican tax rates? Because that's the choice. McCain calls Barack's tax plan -- the exact tax rates for high incomes that we used throughout Bill Clinton's term -- "socialism" as if calling the Clinton tax rates that delivered higher wages and budget surpluses and a roaring economy something that sounds like a bad thing will make people choose the economy of the Bush years over the economy of the Clinton years. 

Don't be scared of words. Vote for the tax plan that made our country better off. 

And remember: people who make more than a quarter million dollars a year can afford to pay more. They're doing it for their own good -- because they will reap the benefits of a strong Clinton-style 1990s economy just as much as everyone else will. And the richest Americans will end up with more money even when they are paying an extra 3.6% on anything they earn over $250,000 because the economy will be stronger under the Clinton-Obama-Democratic type of tax rates than it would be under the Bush-McCain-Republican tax rates.  Not too many rich people are feeling very rich right now, and that's largely because Republicans have screwed up the economy with their anti-government government. 

If you want peace and prosperity again (or, in McCain's words, socialism), do what we did last time we had it: elect a Democratic President. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

20,462 people would have been excluded without grace period registration

The deadline to register to vote in Illinois is 28 days before the election. After that, the state extends a grace period of an extra 14 days where citizens can register to vote, but they have to do so in the office of the election administrator (no drivers license facilities or street-corner registrations from outside organizations are permitted after the regular deadline). And to make it easier on the election administators, grace period registrants must vote when they register, so the administators need not get their information, including a digital signature, to the polling place in that 14 day window.

This year, 20,462 Illinois citizens were not excluded from voting by the regular deadline to register, according to the State Journal-Register, as those 20,462 citizens registered and voted during the grace period.

Senator James Meeks (D-Chicago) and then-Representative Robin Kelly (now Chief of Staff to Treasurer Alexi Gionnoulias) sponsored the bill to implement grace period registration in their respective chambers. The bill, SB 2133, passed on essentially a party-line vote (with the exception of then-Republican Paul Froehlich who voted for it -- an early sign of his admirable independence and consistent work to improve democracy and government for all citizens). 

I was the advocate and lobbyist for the grace period registration bill and I hope that in 2009 the General Assembly will extend registration opportunities to more citizens who wish to vote but find out they can not because of a government deadline to provide the government with their residence information. Today, thousands of citizens (particularly the young and the mobile) are learning to their dismay that they are not registered at their current address or at all and are thus unable to vote. We should implement same-day voter registration, if not at the polling place as Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, aine and a few other states use, then at least at the office of the election authority where same-day registrants can show up, show ID, register and vote. This is how Montana offers same-day registration (essentially an extension through election-day of Illinois' grace period registration Montana calls "late registration" -- doesn't "grace period" sound more inclusive than "late registration"?). 

Let's extend our grace period through election day in 2010 and stop excluding citizens from voting.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Upcoming radio appearances: the BBC and Beyond the Beltway

Must be a B for Barack alliteration: the BBC and Beyond the Beltway have kindly asked me to appear on their shows as a Democratic voter voice in the next week or so. 

I'll be on Beyond the Beltway tonight (to balance out the right-of-center Mancow who is getting back on Chicago radio on WLS).

And on Election Night, I'll be on the BBC Five Live's Richard Bacon show. I hope we'll get a booth at the Grant Park rally. Dan Proft will represent the Republican perspective (or as I call it, the permanent minority party).

It's really fun to mix it up on political talk shows, so if you happen to be a producer or host of one and you're looking for a progressive Democratic guest from Chicago, email me at Dan -at- 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Best voters guide I've ever seen -- Tribune's website

This is one of the coolest innovations in voters' guides I've ever seen.

The Chicago Tribune (which does the most work of any organization in the state interviewing candidates for public office and offering those answers to the electorate) now has a very nifty online feature: a voter-specific ballot that compares the answers from each candidate for each race on a voters' particular ballot. Then you can make your choice among all the candidates running based on answers to substantive qustions posed by the Trib's editorial board.

Poll: Illinois voters want federal-style tax brackets

Two-thirds of Illinois voters want a progressive income tax with federal-style tax brackets instead of a flat rate income tax according to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute's most recent poll.

That's by far the most popular method of raising revenue.
Add income tax brackets with a higher rate for higher incomes? 66% support
Raising the state sales tax? 17% support
Taxing services? 28% support
More gambling? 47% support
Sell or lease the lottery or other assets? 38% support

And that's one more reason to amend the state constitution by voting YES on the constitutional convention question on the ballot this November.

Our constitution has a flat income tax rate requirement. That's dumb. Since the General Assembly didn't put a constitutional amendment on amending the income tax on the ballot this November (like they should have), we'll have to convene a constitutional convention to put the amendment on the ballot in 2010. So then at least the next Governor can implement a progressive income tax in 2011 in his or her first term.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why would anyone vote for more Republican rule in Washington?

Republicans have screwed things up so badly that they all ought to be fired.

Why would anyone vote to give Republicans more control over the government after they:

1. Invaded the wrong country after we were attacked
2. Got rid of all any regulations over the banks that could have stopped the meltdown
3. Made the middle class and working people worse off with lower or flat wages 
4. Made America's millionaire's much richer by cutting their taxes a lot (and now call Barack a socialist for trying to bring back the same tax rates for millionaires that we used when Clinton was the president -- which seemed to work out very well economically speaking and
5. Made college more expensive (very little financial aid) and
6. Tried to put Social Security in the same financial companies' control that just went bankrupt

This is the year to give Democrats control over the entire federal government and vote against any Republican Member of Congress.

Democrats fired Senator Clinton for voting to go to Iraq (replacing her with Barack Obama, as she was essentially the presumptive nominee before Iowa). Now it's time to do the same for any Republican who voted to go to Iraq. They ought to be fired for wasting our money and ending tens of thousands of lives in a mistaken war. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Undecided voters -- and most voters -- want big government spending

I learned something watching the presidential debate last night: we want big government spending.

Every time McCain would rail against "big government spending" as the problem at the cause of our financial crisis, those little lines by the undecided Ohio voters would stay flat or go negative. And every time Obama would talk about investing in Americans and the need for more spending on the programs that work, those lines would go up. They hit the roof when he talked about better education.

And I think one of the reasons why McCain and the Repuublican Party is collapsing while Obama and the Democratic Party is consolidating support among a majority of voters is because the nation has an appetite for big government spending on themselves. We want big government spending on education. We want big government spending on our economy and our jobs and ultimately our standard of living. We want the government to buy us a better life. Because the Republican plan of not having the government buy us anything and waiting for higher wages and stronger health insurance and cheaper, better colleges and better public schools and better infrastructure hasn't worked out at all.

The interesting thing is the fetish that each of the moderators -- who represent the Washington Consensus -- has on cutting back on spending plans given the big deficit. I think that's a big disconnect. Most voters, I would suggest, don't care about the deficit, so long as the big government spending makes our lives better. And whether the Democratic majority delivers on making our lives better will require pushing aside the Washington consensus on cutting back on new spending programs. If we do cut back on new spending programs and then our lives do not get significantly better as a result, we'll lose an opportunity to not only do the right thing for people but consolidate political support for the next election.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Post-debate discussion on WGN tonight with Milt Rosenberg

I'm going on the Milt Rosenberg show on WGN 720 am tonight for some post-presidential debate discussion. Apparently we're doing something fun by steaming live for awhile on WGN Radio 2 when we're pre-empted by sports and then going on the air. Should be a good time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Canadian election shows how to run a voter registration system without our problems

Voter registration in the United States is a mess. Because it is the job of the citizen and not the government to keep voter registration information current, it's really up to the political campaigns and other non-government, private organizations to help people register to vote.

Some of these private, transient organizations that pop up every election cycle and then die down again aren't run very well. How can they be without permanent staff to develop expertise? Instead, some of them end up assisting citizens to register to vote several times or turn in incorrect information to the government. The government's role is reactive -- they take and process and attempt to verify any information that they get about a citizen who wishes to be registered. This causes a huge pile of work to come in to the government's office at the last minute, which is inherently inefficient, since no one but the government has an incentive to keep the list of registered voters current and inclusive during non-election seasons. 

Even worse, each county (and we've got almost 3000 of thm in the United States) runs their own elections. They each have different procedures and laws -- some of them vastly different. They each keep their own list of registered voters, so a citizen has to know what obscure government agency of their county to contact in order to verify their registration status and to acquire specific information about voting.

Canada is different. They have one federal agency that handles all voter registration. It's called Elections Canada. Easy, right? Every Canadian citizen can check one easy website to get all the information on voting and the election they need. 

Even better, the government has the job to get people registered to vote. Elections Canada keeps the permanent list of registered voters updated automatically when Canadian citizens tell some other agency of government (like the post office or a federal agency like Revenue or Immigration) that they have a new address or that there's a new 18-year old. 

Finally, if someone isn't on the list of registered voters, they can register to vote on Election Day in Canada. That's in every province (not just in a few states, like in the US).

The federal government in the United States should take over voter registration, using Canada as a model. Every American is entitled to be a voter. They shouldn't have to jump through hoops with some county agency to vote for the President of the United States. And we shouldn't have to rely on temporary organizations popping up to get people registered to vote with their inevitable sloppy work that some will call systemic fraud. The best way to maintain a clean, accurate list of all Americans over 18 and thus eligible to vote is to require the federal government to keep and maintain such a list, using data from the Postal Service, the Internal Revenue Service and every other database the government keeps.

Our two nations are both in the middle of a heated federal election. There are hundreds of news stories on the fierce political and legal battles over voter registration in America with litigation and accusations of fraud and suppression. There are not in Canada. They are doing something right to settle the question and task an independent federal agency to compile a trusted list of voters. We should follow their lead.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Updated -- list of Cook County judges to vote against

I had a bit of feedback on reprinting the Chicago Bar Association's recommendations for judicial candidates in Cook County, so I thought I'd see who else is not recommended.

Typically, all state judges win their races. That seems wrong to me (especially as today I saw a WBEZ story that a federal judge is complaining that Cook County judges are falling down on their job with bond cases). With almost 100 judges up for election or retention (basically re-election), at least a few of them should get fired on a regular basis. Since the state constitution gives me the job to decide which state judges should get fired, I'm going to take the advice of the lawyers who take the time and review the job performance of all the judges. (Yes, I snuck in another reason to vote yes on the constitutional convention so I don't have to decide which judges keep their jobs or not. If you like the way we pick our state judges now, vote against the constitutional convention!). 

The Chicago Bar Association picked four judges out of dozens and dozens to fire. They are

Anthony Lynn Burrell
Evelyn B. Clay
Vanessa A. Hopkins
Casandra Lewis

What about other associations, a friend of mine asked? 

Kathleen Marie McGury
Gerald C. Bender
Evelyn B. Clay
Shelli Williams Hayes
Vanessa A. Hopkins
Edward N. Pietrucha
Janet Adams Brosnahan
Casandra Lewis
Valeria Turner

And then there's an association of associations at with a lot more information.

My preference, though, is for some group of lawyers to have a longer list of judges to vote against. I'd like to raise the bar (so to speak) on judges to get ever-higher standards applied to the judicial branch. So if any association tells me to vote against a judge, I'm taking that advice. There are far too many groups and people that take the opposite approach (include the judicial campaign) which is to vote yes on all judges. That's bad politics and bad policy. In any organization, some people ought to get let go on a regular basis so new and better talent can join up. That's how a culture of excellent and achievement in an organization is created -- not by keeping everyone on the job no matter what.

So, I'll be voting no on all the judges listed above. If anyone knows of any other associations or groups with their picks to vote against, maybe for the first time in Cook County history (a bit of hyperbole, but not much), some bad or just mediocre judges will get let go, making the rest of the judiciary a little bit better.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The list of Cook County judges to vote against this election

The Chicago Bar Association just released their evaluation of all the judicial candidates on the ballot this November. Most of them are qualified and worth a vote. But about six of them are not, and they are the people that we should vote against this November.

They are:

Anthony Lynn Burrell
Evelyn B. Clay
Vanessa A. Hopkins
Casandra Lewis

Every other judge on the countywide ballot was rated as Qualified or Highly Qualified. But those four judges were not. So vote no on them and spread the word to others.

Monday, October 06, 2008

My magazine written up in 37signals blog

I publish a magazine for the public transportation field called More Riders. It's for anyone who wants to help generate more riders on transit by better communication.

Today, the Chicago-based software company 37 signals wrote us up in their Product Blog, since I use their products Basecamp and Highrise to run the magazine.

If you are looking for project management software or content management software, I highly recomment checking out Basecamp and Highrise, respectively. You can read all about my testimonial at their Product Blog.

And if you want to read the More Riders blog and add your own ideas about how to generate more riders (and thus break our nation's oil addiction, slow climate change and reduce traffic congestion and fatal car crashes), come on by.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Amtrak train riders should vote for Obama since McCain votes against Amtrak

I think John McCain made a major strategic mistake last week in Washington: he continued his decades-long record of opposition to Amtrak by voting against the best federal legislation for Amtrak in a decade. The bill is HR 2095, the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act. Barack Obama voted to strengthen Amtrak and provide more passenger rail service; John McCain voted against it. Here is the Senate roll call.

The bill -- which President Bush has said he will sign into law -- will improve Amtrak servive and extend more passenger rail to more people. This is one of the smartest ways to break our addiction to foreign oil and give some relief to Americans who are suffering from high oil prices. Our nation needs a lot more rail service, not less. Barack Obama gets that which is why he voted for the bill. John McCain does not. That's why he voted against it.

So Amtrak riders in Wisconsin (there are a ton of them who ride the Hiawatha's 7 daily trains between Milwaukee, General Mitchell Field Airport, Sturtevant (near Racince) and then into Glenview and Chicago) and Minnesota (who ride the usually sold-out Empire Builder) who might want to vote for John McCain will think twice about putting into power a president who would be the biggest enemy of Amtrak we've ever had.

George Bush is going to sign the bill. That makes John McCain more of an Amtrak-opponent than George Bush -- and George Bush tried to eliminate all federal support for Amtrak in his budget two years ago! 

It's not a partisan thing. Republicans in Wisconsin generally support Amtrak. Former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson was a huge supporter of Amtrak. Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota, voted for the bill. Lots of Republicans in the Senate are big supporters of Amtrak. But John McCain is not. He is one of the country's leading opponents of Amtrak while Barack Obama has consistently been a supporter.

John McCain's opposition to Amtrak is a bad political move, particularly in the must-win states for McCain of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

I mean, how can you vote for $700 billion for the investment banks and then in the same week vote against more trains for Americans? That will, I predict, lose John Mccain a good number of votes among Republican-leaning men in the Midwest who understand how important trains are to our economy -- and how we need a modern resurgence of train service to grow our Midwestern economy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

DeFazio unveils a non taxpayer-as-sucker fix to credit crisis instead of a bail out

The fundamental problem with forcing you and I and every other American to risk $2300 of each our taxes to buy stupid loans from investment banks that -- if they were so smart, the Wall Street wizards never would have bought in the first place -- is that we are being taken for suckers.

We pay for the bad investments: socialism for financial losses. Instead, they should pay for it.

And we should fix the credit crisis by fixing the credit crisis, not by buying off the stupid investments that Wall Street made.

There are lots of better ways to fix the credit crisis. Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon has introduced a low-cost NO BAILOUTS Act (people like acronyms in DC).

Here is the text from his Dear Colleague letter to other Members of Congress. They should each dump the Bush Administration proposal to buy bad investments (as if we should trust them not to let the taxpayer get ripped off by the investment banks!) and instead focus on fixing the credit crisis:

The Paulson Premise Flawed
Simon Johnson, a former chief
economist as the International Monetary Fund, stated today in the New York Times
of Paulson’s plan, “It’s our view that this package, in a fundamental sense,
will not solve the problem.” Other economic analysts noted yesterday that
the credit markets around the world were almost entirely dysfunctional even when
political leaders and investors assumed that Congress had reached a deal and
would easily approve the bailout. There is no reason to believe Paulson’s
plan will work.

We have
credible alternatives to the Paulson/Bush $700 billion gamble. William
Isaac, the chairman of the FDIC during the previous worst financial crisis in
the United States during the 1980s, believes Congress can address the current
crisis with simple changes to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
rules. Mr. Isaac points out that while we face serious financial
challenges today, many banks are still in good shape. This allows Congress
to take swift, uncomplicated steps to ensure the financial markets return to
working order. After that, we can work to resolve the housing crisis and pass
effective job stimulus.
Today I am offering an alternative to the
Wall Street bailout that will correct the capital shortfalls experienced by many
financial institutions and help protect the integrity and quality of the
securities market. My plan could be implemented promptly meeting the
demands of the Bush Administration to act immediately without putting the
American taxpayer on the hook for billions of dollars.

I really hope Congress doesn't get rolled by the Bush Administration .... again.